Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Hijab- What is its Significance?

On a recent posting, I described an event at UC-Irvine hosted by the Muslim Student Union and made the observation that the overwhelming majority of the females in the audience were wearing hijabs-the headscarf that many Muslim women choose to wear. For this, I was taken to task by one of my readers as to why I even mentioned it. I answered the question, but I think the whole issue of the hijab merits a posting in itself because I have a lot of questions about it myself.

In light of world events involving Islam-or perhaps, I should say militant Islam, it seems to me that more and more Muslim women are choosing to don the hijab. Of course, in some parts of the Muslim world, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and up until the removal of the Taliban, Afghanistan, the hijab has been mandatory, indeed Afghanistan mandated burkas and Saudi Arabia requires full-facial covering out of doors. On the other hand, in France, for example, the hijab has become so controversial, that the country has tried to ban it in certain public venues like school as an affront to the idea of assimilation.

To be specific, my question is why women wear the hijab. I invite any Muslim readers of this blog (and I know you are out there) to share their insight.

On the one hand, I have an admiration for female modesty-especially given some of the outrageous ways some Western women choose to dress-not that I am a prude by any means. I also think that the headscarf appears quite feminine and attractive in its own right-though I also think that long, black hair is downright beautiful to look at.

The choice of whether to wear the hijab or not I believe should be left to the woman herself and not dictated by other Muslim men who may or may not even be related to her. If the woman is forced to wear it, I think that is unfortunate.

But assuming the individual woman chooses to wear the head-covering, the question remains why? Is it truly because of religious piety? It is my understanding that the Qu'ran does not dictate it. Is there some other statement that the woman is making-especially in Western society? Is it a statement of militancy? Is it a statement that "I am different from you, and I reject Western society"? Is it a warning to non-Muslim men to stay away and not even think about making an advance? Or is it just because my family or peers insist on it?

I think the answer depends on the individual. My perception tells me (perhaps, erroneously) that more hijabs are being seen in the US in light of recent events, and that this could be an ominous sign. There again, I could be completely off-base, and I welcome any enlightenment from Muslim readers, male or female.


Lance Christian Johnson said...

If you ask me, the Indians have achieved the perfect balance between feminine beauty and modesty in their traditional dress.

Gary Fouse said...

As one who has visited India twice, you are absolutely correct. Ditto for Japan, Korea, and Thailand.

Anonymous said...

Why not ask the same about Jewish men wearing the yarmulke?

Gary Fouse said...

They wear it when they enter the synagogue, right?

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I had a student's father come to Back to School night and he was wearing one. He seemed bright enough to not have me confused with a rabbi.

Anonymous said...

No, I've seen some wearing it in public. At UCI, too.

Along the same lines, what about ultra-orthodox Jews that all dress alike and refuse to assimilate?

Gary Fouse said...


"Along the same lines, what about ultra-orthodox Jews that all dress alike and refuse to assimilate?"

Ok with me as long as they arn't killing anybody.

Gary Fouse said...


If you enter a synagogue, you will be asked to wear one.